tv [untitled] April 22, 2012 1:00pm-1:30pm EDT
been american and my mother british, instead of the other way around, i might have got here on my own. >> this is american history tv on c-span3. next, the history of beer and spirits on america. it was recorded saturday at the annual meeting of the american organization of historians. presenting the show historian ed aers, peter ohenough at the public radio show and podcast back story with the american history guys. >> are you ready, guys? >> ready. >> all right. >> on the air, dude. >> major production support for back story was provided by the national endowment for the humanities.
♪ >> from the virginia foundation for humanities, this is "back story." >> it's october 8th, 1871, we're in chicago. and the fire is spreading. it's a horrible fire. nobody's exactly shu how it started. it started on the west side of chicago, but it's spreading incredibly quickly. and before long, the central district is aflame, and by the end of two days, 300 people are dead and 100,000 people are left homeless. >> in the weeks following the great chicago fire, people all
over the country rally to help the great city. businessmen in places like boston and new york and cincinnati send food and clothing and money. and chicago's kneeby neighbor to the north, the city of milwaukee, also pitches in. but it sends something else, something that comes with that special milwaukee flavor. ♪ >> the beer that made milwaukee famous simply because it tastes so good. >> i'll add, in case it's not clear to you, is not from 1871. it's from 90 years later. >> that's my period. >> so why are we playing this? well, it's because that tag you heard at the end of the jingle, the beer that made milwaukee famous, hard as it may be to believe, it wasn't because
schlits tasted so good, or at all, that's not what made -- first made it its hometown famous beyond its borders. it was because in the wake of the great fire, jo shef schlits donated thousands of barrels of beer to chicago, all of chicago's breweries were wiped out in the fire. this was brilliant marketing. a true lost leader. >> today on "back story" we're coming to you from the city that was made famous by schlits where in milwaukee at the 2012 annual meeting of the organization of american historians, and the national council on public history. which in case you hadn't noticed, guys, means we're surrounded by a lot of people who know more history than us. >> fortunately reduced to that. >> that's true.
>> we want to say, hello, milwaukee. >> hey, milwaukee. >> hey! [ applause ] >> all right. big surprise, our theme for today's show is, guess what, americans' relationship with beer. and drinking in general. and as we do in each week on our radio show, we'll be bouncing around through the centuries trying to see what a transhistorical approach to this subject like alcohol might reveal about other aspects of american life. as always, i, peter onuf, will be representing the 18th century. >> i'll be representing the 19th century. >> and i, brian bellow, will be toasting the 20th century. but to kick things off, i want to go back to your period, peter, and just a few basic questions. i want to know who was drinking.
i want to know what they were drinking and -- hold on -- i want to know mainly how much were they drinking? >> well, you should have asked who wasn't drinking. it would have been a short show. we could shut down right now. they were drinking everything. you might even say this is the golden age, guys, of the 18th century. actually,'s not a very nice century, to be honest. but if you're into alcohol, you've got all kinds. you've got pear trees, and apples, cider, and home brew, you've got rum, you've got various distilled fruit drinks. and basically, you've also got dirty water. so i ask you, as a sensible, healthy american, which way are you going to go. you're going to drink -- think
of the chesapeake area, think of the tide water area, you died. and they did. and they deserved to. >> that is not endorsed by "back story." >> or by the virginian. >> well, it's ubiquitous, that's the first point to make. and it's incorporated into the lives of all americans. now, it's not good to be totally wildly drunk. and preachers will rail against that. but they don't blame it on being rum. that's ed's century, he gets mystical about it. if you used to get drunk, it was a free country, it's your choice, it's a question of will. this is not an addiction, it's not a disease, it's just your choice. of course, there's enough social regulation and long-standing, long-settled colonial areas, so it could be reasonably orderly. and yeah, there's some
disapproval, but by and large, i want to give you an example of what my second favorite founding father said about alcohol in his -- that would be benjamin franklin -- in his drinkers dictionary printed in 1737. and what franklin does, and this demonstrates how accepted drinking was in this period. because franklin lists more than 200 synonyms for being drunk. and we're going to give you a sample of that. we have a few very brave audience members who were doing a little drinking before this show. so they're ready to go. >> that's how we got them, peter. >> and they volunteered to do some sampling of the beer and give us a sample from franklin's dictionary. are you ready out there volunteers? >> we're ready. >> all right. go for it. >> all right. he is addled, he's afflicted,
he's in his airs, he's been at barbados, his head is full of bees. >> he's been too free with the creature. he's fishy, foxed, fuddled, footed into france. he's loose in the hilts, he clips the king's english. >> pungy, pridy, as good conditioned as a puppy. >> in the suds, staggerish, he carries too much sail, stewed, soaked, soft, been too free with sir john strawberry. >> double-tongued has swallowed a tavern token, he makes virginia fence. >> whoa, does that sound like fun? all right. [ applause ] >> thank you, volunteers. thank you very much. it was so hard to get them here
from the 18th century. we spared no expense. >> so everybody's drinking all the time. well, maybe about five gallons per capita of alcohol per every person, man, woman and child. it's hard to know, because so much of it is brewed at home. distilled at home. it's not yet a big business. all that vulgar stuff happens in the 18th century. but there is a -- i'm sorry, i didn't mean that. there is growing concern as the revolution approaches. nobody knows this, of course, let's be like historians, they don't know it, but there is a growing concern about drinking in certain areas. one of the things is that the taverns are crowded with lots of people. including future patriots. and they've been squeezed out of their legislature, so what else are they going to do, they're going to have a drink about it. but there is some concern about
maybe there's too much drinking, too much rowdiness in the cities. those mobs, which the patriots use in order to overthrow the old regime, well, they could be a potentially dangerous force. so there's concern about drinking on the frontier, drinking in the newly settled areas. sailors, of course, they have to drink, it's part of their job. so we have a revolution, right? >> and since the revolution basically fixed everything that was wrong if america, that must have ended after that alcohol -- >> absolutely. a new world began in 1776, right? wrong. >> that's all the time we have today. >> i've got news for you, and i want to share it with our friends and natives. well, my people in the 18th century, they were concerned about regulation, about moderation, about maybe there's some excessive drinking. well, it's a free country, it was a free country, and american
democrats, they're going to drink. and they're going to drink. and you're not going to be able to impose any order on them. so guess what, by 1830, this is a -- i want to talk about a golden age. 7.8 gallons per capita in the 19th century -- >> in 1830. so in the early decades of the new nation, it kind of goes crazy. >> yeah. >> you wouldn't think you could drink more than five gallons of pure alcohol a year. it turns out you can -- >> there's order in there, you know, drunken stupors. >> no, no, what's happening, peter -- >> it helps with the political participation. >> what you respond to is, of course, this is the time the markets are rapidly expanding, the population is so rapidly growing. i find a complex geography of drinking across the country. you have the culture of the eastern cities and you're finding new cultures of drinking
out in the frontier, down in the south the perpetual frontier of slavery and the plantations. and you're finding, too, that right after this huge infusion of immigrants -- >> i'm a little confused. this is merging on an age of jackson, even worse, right? >> right. >> how did we ever turn the corner on alcohol to become such a sobering moderate people? >> of course, look at them coming out on saturday night to listen to radio live. they're very temperate people. >> radio live? >> let's be clear what these people are doing here right now. >> this is a very serious problem, folks. watching radio. >> here's the situation. they didn't know about radio back then, but what they did notice that after it piques, the civil war is a huge catastrophe.
and what you find is that if you're worried about trying to maintain order in the troops, trying to control that alcohol, but when the union or confederate troops come toward the house, they appropriate the alcohol. but afterwards it turns out the consumption of alcohol per capita, it's far much -- far better than the near century. >> it's about half. >> yeah, it is. and it stays stable. which is a surprising thing. why would that be? well, it would have to be in part that people decide to drink less. that maybe they read these words and decided to -- >> but what were they drinking, ed? wasn't it harder stuff? >> yeah. they were drinking harder stuff. it. >> it seems like this is an early triumph of capitalism. and it was the market that brought lots of whisky, for lots of drinkers. that's very american, that's progress, right? >> yeah. >> so why didn't that just go on
forever? >> well, because people said, we're able to make and market this much alcohol, we better find ways to control it a little bit. so that's a little bit later in the show. >> right. >> just to keep people wondering. something happened along the way. you also found that these -- the other sort of counterveiling pressures came in that people decided maybe we better show up to work on monday. a more than they did in the 18th century. >> well, we drank on the job in my country. >> well, we started segmenting all this. by the time we hand the baton over to the 20th century, we don't do that anymore. things are much more regulari regularized. you have to have somebody show up at work. >> that's high capitalism. you would think that the story's over, because we're drinking less, and we're drinking everywhere. >> yeah. >> but we're drinking less.
and a lot of the story in the 20th century is how this drinking becomes distilled, if you will, and becomes concentrated. and ironically, becomes embodied in beer, not in whiskey. >> that's good for you. >> well, it starts out at the beginning of the 20th century as being promoted as healthful. >> especially lager. >> that's exactly right. >> it's like water and it still is. >> but what is not -- what is not so healthful in the view of many americans is the concentration, the distillation of drinking in places called saloons. saloons were places that were associated with prostitution, with political corruption. now, let me put in a good word for saloons. saloons were key sites for labor organizing. they were basically offices for
lots of union leaders who wanted to organize workers. and saloons were a safe haven away from the view of the boss. you know, when you got your act together in the 19th century and made sure people didn't show up drunk at work. and probably good thing, they were working with heavy machinery. they started drinking in these saloons. >> that's where they went. >> yeah, yeah. i told you you should read about the 20th century. >> yeah. >> so what worried people as much, or almost as much as the problems related to alcoholism, the kind of domestic abuse that it led to, what it did to families was the fear that this working class was forming. it was forming in uncontrolled places. >> before in taverns you had a revolution. >> that's right. but that was against the bad guys. >> good revolution. >> this revolution would have
been against those capitalists. and they weren't happy about that. but really, they didn't need to worry so much. because a couple of things happened. first, prohibition came along and absolutely shut down the saloons. we don't believe in doing things halfway in the 20th century. >> no, no. >> and then after that, you had the great depression. so by the time that breweries got going again, a lot of the local breweries, regional breweries, had really been wiped out. and a lot of those breweries had been supporting those saloons. and in the 20th century the saloons had tie-ins they called it with the big brewers. well, those connections were severed. what you get is the emergence of these national beer companies that are distributing widely, they're using things like steel cans in order to distribute their beer. they're no longer doing it in -- they're bypassing the saloons.
and they are pitching their beer to more of a national audience. and to be honest, it's kind of generic. they talk about the flavors of the beer. all the ads have pictures of women, or when we get tv we have mabel, who brings us -- >> mabel black label. >> black label, you remember she always winks at the end of the commercial. >> those right there are too young. >> i know. >> you can find it on youtube, though. >> i bet you can. it's a very generic thing. and then in 1971, something truly remarkable happens. advertisers, actually philip morris who has bought this beer company, to be specific, discover that beer drinkers feel left out. and they start to focus their attention on that beer drinker. on you, the beer drinker. so i want you guys to listen to this jingle.
♪ if you've got the time ♪ we've got the beer ♪ miller beer ♪ miller tastes too good to hurry through ♪ ♪ but when it's time to relax ♪ miller's been clear ♪ year after year ♪ if you've got the time ♪ you've got the time ♪ we've got the beer ♪ miller beer >> so if you have the time, and they're appealing to all kinds of americans who are really at the peak post-world war ii earning years. they're getting more fringe benefits. they have more leisure time. and miller would like them to have endless leisure time. >> they have the beer. >> they have the beer. and they can drink beer after beer. and it's not just miller.
the bud slogan right after this -- >> if this bud's for you, i don't want it. >> whatever you do, this bud's for you. >> so what happens to the working guy? and his beer? >> well, we know the only working gioia here is ed ayers. that's only because he's a university president. >> so it turns out nobody buys this idea of everybody's got all the time and they've got all the beer. and in 1973, one of the biggest hits in the country addressed this issue head-on in a sort of a fearless way. in johnny russell's timeless classic, "rednecks, white sox and blue ribbon beer," which we need to hear a little bt of right now. >> it seems to be two cities here. >> you're going to have to sing it, ed. >> you know, that is really a horrifying prospect.
what it's suggesting is that this whole message that we're just one big class, it's for you, whatever you do, was kind of a sham. and in fact, that there was places that you can maybe hear the record on the needle there. i don't know if we're going to hear this one. >> hold on. ♪ a drunk at the bar is getting noisy and mean ♪ ♪ some guy on the phone says i'll be home soon, dear ♪ ♪ rednecks, white sox, and blue ribbon beer ♪ ♪ no, we don't fit in to the white collar crowd ♪ ♪ we're a little too rowdy and a little too loud ♪ ♪ there's no place that i'd rather be than right here ♪
♪ with my redneck, white sox and blue ribbon beer ♪ >> get the red, white and blue. i've got the white collar. that's what i've got. >> what this is suggesting is that it comes full circle, the way that alcohol is tied into this social network. so highly differentiated before. we'll talk about it a little bit later. becomes differentiated again. marketers try to acts there's one big market. country music comes out, and says, don't fool us, alcohol is still deeply rooted in every american way. you know, all this talk about beer kind of has me thirsty. and a pbr would be good. >> yeah. >> but i think that we're so fortunate tonight to have a special guest. brian, you can tell us about her. >> she is actually an expert on
beer. we have with us tonight lucy saunders. welcome, lucy. [ applause ] just a short introduction. i know in milwaukee, lucy needs no introduction. but lucy is an award-winning food writer here in milwaukee whose books include "cooking with beer," "grilling with beer," are you picking up on a theme? "best of american beer in food." i'm dying to ask if lucy's currently working on a book called microbrewing. please welcome lucy. a round of applause. historian. [ applause ] >> thank you so much. well, actually, peter, this beer is for you. this is a beer -- >> i didn't know you had any that we could drink.
>> all right! woo! >> crack that baby open. >> all right. it's time to salute the flag. red, white and blue. >> for our radio audience out there, peter, what have you just done? >> this is, believe it or not, 24 fluid ounces. it means for any three history guys, you've got eight ounces each. and it is an enormous pabst blue ribbon. >> a tall boy. >> we're drinking my century now? >> actually, it predates the 18th century. this would be an example of a 16th century beer style. it's a daklo box. it was the liquid bread brewed for nutrition during the fasting season of lent on monasteries in bavaria. there's lots of speculation about the origins of lager yeast.
lager yeast differing from ale yeast, by being bottom fermenting. and really, what you see here is a beautiful dark -- >> you can't even see through it. >> that's a mahogany. >> it is a deep mahogany. i wonder what it tastes like. >> taste it. please do. cheers. welcome to the beer portion. >> radio audience, we are now drinking the beer, in small, tasteful -- >> some of us have finished our beer. >> oh, right! is this some kind of competition? >> and some of us are helping out the radio show by describing what we're doing. >> this is very dark. >> this is remarkably good. >> it is remarkably good. >> this actually isn't from the 17th century. >> no, this is a actually a beer style that was resuscitated by specker brewery, based here in milwaukee county. it's actually in glendale.
>> it's delicious. >> docklabok is a german beer style. it would be considered a seasonal beer. >> they brought this with them when they came to wisconsin? >> they brought this with them. >> so we took the best of the old world and gave it new life here in america. >> it's giving us new life. >> the german brewers in milwaukee, in the 19th century, there were many, many breweries here. and i would say that the box and brown ales, i think it was pretty much dark, but then starting in the middle of the 19th century, two things happened. refrigeration was widely adopted, and clear glass could be mass manufactured. and so suddenly the color of beer became much more important. >> mm-mmm. >> i can see they didn't have twistoffs. >> they did not have twistoff. but i have another milwaukee
brewery from the clish pillsner. it's a lovely soft, straw gold. >> and this would have been -- >> what, are we going to share it? >> go for it. >> we don't usually drink on the show. >> questionable protocol here. >> as a matter of fact, i'm knowing less history by the second. [ applause ] so take that into account. >> we'll recover in the q&a. >> but the pillsen style, the lager, really was an invention that came about in the 19th century, with the advent of the bottom fermenting lager yeast, and they use hops that are grown in that borderline area between germany and the czech republic.
they're very floral. >> so did americans -- surely we played some pioneering role in developing lager, and thinner beer, did we not? >> yes, that actually happened in the '70s. >> 1970s? >> i'll drink to that. >> all right. >> but seriously, before prohibition, you could find many different beer styles. there were the mukner styles, special dark styles, many, many different styles of beer. and after prohibition, there were so few breweries that reopened. we went from having more than 2,000 breweries to just a bit over 700 breweries after prohibition. >> right. >> so the changing tastes evolved with the marketing of beer as something lighter, more enjoyable. and increasingly marked to women. >> we were talking about that. that's actually true, she actually knows this stuff. >> yes. >> well, for example, here in
milwaukee, allis chal amors, the women coming off the work shifts wanted to go to the tavern and have a beer, too. >> can you imagine calling the beer the champagne of bottled beers? that seems so transgressively perverse. >> well, there was a complexity of flavors. >> we'll drink to that. >> yes, yes, the pabst blue ribbon. >> is it sad that you're watching us drink? >> just to be clear, the 19th century would have seen a profusion of styles. it would have been the golden age of beer. >> the 19th century was the golden age? i thought it was the 18th century. >> it continued the growth until prohibition. so it's a discontinuation of history. and was there